Looking for a fresh way to liven up your garden walls? Think plants, not paintings.
Living pictures, cuttings of assorted succulents woven together in everything from picture frames to pallet boxes have caught on among garden designers and landscapers this spring as an easy, modern way to add color and texture to an outdoor space.
Living pictures are nearly maintenance-free. So even beginners or those with the blackest of thumbs can look like the master gardener of the neighborhood.
Here’s how you can create your own living succulent picture:
For a larger living picture, you can use a wooden pallet, framing out the back like a shadow box.
But going big right away can be daunting, and bigger also means heavier, so many newbies like California gardening blogger Sarah Cornwall stick with smaller picture or poster frames.
You’ll also need a shadow box cut to fit the back of the frame, and wire mesh or “chicken wire” to fit over the front if you’re going to make your own.
First, nail or screw the shadow box to the back of the frame. A depth of 2 to 3 inches is ideal. Set the wire mesh inside the frame and secure it with a staple gun, then nail a plywood backing to the back of the shadow box.
Almost any succulent can be used for living pictures, though it’s usually best to stick with varieties that stay small, like echeverias and sempervivums, says DIG Gardens co-owner Cara Meyers.
Cut off small buds of the succulents for cuttings, leaving a stem of at least 1/4-inch long.
Make sure any old bottom leaves are removed, then leave the cuttings on a tray in a cool, shaded area for a few days before planting.
Set the frame mesh-side up on a table and fill with soil, using your hands to push it through the wire mesh openings.
Be sure to use cactus soil, which is coarser than potting soil for better drainage.
Some vertical gardeners place a layer of sphagnum moss under and over the soil to hold moisture in when watering.
Now comes the fun and creative part. Lay out the succulent cuttings in the design you want on a flat surface, and poke them into the wire mesh holes in your frame.
You can start either in one corner or by placing the “focal point” cuttings in first and filling in around them.
Using just one type of succulent is also a simple yet elegant option, says Kirk Aoyagi, co-founder and vice president of FormLA Landscaping. “Collages with some draping and some upright plants can create a more dramatic look and feel.”
Keep the living picture flat and out of direct sunlight for one to two weeks to allow roots to form along the stems, then begin watering.
Mount your living art once the succulents are securely rooted, which can take four to eight weeks.
After that, water every seven to 10 days by removing from the wall and laying it flat. Be sure to let the water drain before hanging your living picture back up, to avoid rotting.
DIG Gardens: http://diggardensnursery.com